THE BAT SIGNAL: Tomasi Guides Gotham Into "Forever Evil: Arkham War"

Longtime DC Comics writer and former editor Peter Tomasi is no stranger to Gotham's finest, having written the New 52 "Batman And Robin" series since it debuted in 2011. But beginning this month, Tomasi also proves he's also familiar with Gotham's scariest as he takes on Two-Face, Bane, Scarecrow and the assembled inmates of both Arkham Asylum and Blackgate Penitentiary for Villains Month and "Forever Evil: Arkham War."

Tomasi's one-shots began with his Harvey Dent story in "Batman And Robin: Two-Face" with artist Guillem March before moving on with the upcoming "Batman: Bane" and "Detective Comics: The Scarecrow" one-shots, with artists Graham Nolan and Szymon Kudranski, respectively. Then in October Tomasi joins Geoff Johns and Brian Buccellato in penning a "Forever Evil" tie-in, titled "Forever Evil: Arkham War," pitting the inmates of Arkham Asylum against both the city of Gotham and Bane and the denizens of Blackgate. Not to be outdone, October also marks the first chapter of Tomasi's five-part Two-Face/Carrie Kelley story beginning with "Batman And Two-Face" issue #24.

As he takes a spin through Gotham's rogues gallery, Tomasi spoke with THE BAT SIGNAL about his Villains Month one-shots and what readers should expect out of his "Forever Evil" miniseries, as well as his plans for "Batman and..." heading into next year.

CBR News: Your Two-Face Villains Month issue has already hit stands, and your Bane and Scarecrow issues are set to come out over the next couple of weeks. You've got a big Two-Face story in "Batman and...," and Bane and Scarecrow are central to your "Forever Evil: Arkham War" miniseries -- was that the reason you chose to focus on these three villains?

Peter Tomasi: Scarecrow and Bane they are going to play a huge part in the "Arkham War" situation. They're sort of our protagonists, our leads in a way, and we sort of see all the different sides, from the Blackgate side to the Arkham side, reflected through their distinct perspectives -- Scarecrow, of course, representing the Arkham side and Bane representing the Blackgate side.

Bane and Scarecrow represent their different institutions, but how do these villains stack up against each other, and how does that come to the forefront in your "Arkham War" miniseries?

Really, it's all mental! [Laughs] One is the psychotic from the Arkham side, and then you've got the strong-arm, really badass dudes who have no compunctions about killing anybody on the Blackgate side and who have got their own distinct traits. So it's sort of a strong-arm sane crew against a whacked out insane crew!

Looking at the villains in general, all are huge DC villains but especially Bane and Scarecrow who we've seen in other media, most notably the Christopher Nolan Batman movies. Have you felt the films have subtly influenced you in the way you look at them or the way you approach writing them?

That's a good question, I think it's probably crazy to say it doesn't affect you in any subtle way, but having been a big fan of those two characters specifically, Bane and Scarecrow, it was sort of imprinted on my writer DNA for quite some time before I had seen the movies or any other media. I already had a basic approach and feeling for those characters before the movies came out. But seeing them visualized up on a thirty-foot screen obviously does make an impact, so I would say there's definitely something that leaks through. It's very hard to not hear, especially writing, Bane's voice from the movie, its so in my head he's talking like that when I'm writing him on the page. So I would say Bane a little more than Scarecrow, but [original Bane creators Chuck] Dixon and [Graham] Nolan's creation was so rich in character that I would say the movies themselves borrowed heavily from their view. So it was easy to kind of take ninety percent of what Dixon and Nolan had done and then add the visual, audio sensory stuff that plays into your own vision as a writer and kind of imprints itself on the script page.

Plus, then you have Tom Hardy's voice in your head forever.

Yeah, you can't get away from it! [Laughter] When I've got Bane speaking to his men and gesturing with his arms, Hardy's voice as Bane is just the one I'm hearing in my head. And it works! I remember when people were saying, "What's he saying, I can't understand him," but I thought it was perfect. His voice in that film is just a real hook for me. You wouldn't expect that kind of voice to come out from that kind of being, that person, and it's a great contrast to that visual.

Turning to your "Forever Evil" miniseries, in "Arkham War" you're dealing with Blackgate and Arkham. Over in "Suicide Squad," we also have Belle Reeve being broken out of by the villains there. How do you approach and compare the three big prison/mental institutions that make up the DC Universe and that are involved in the "Forever Evil" event?

It's funny, Belle Reeve doesn't play into my psyche when I'm writing "Arkham War" because it takes place at Arkham, so having Blackgate and of course the asylum in Arkham proper, so to speak, or Gotham proper plays into that. They're so distinct and play into Gotham's own being; they just spring from that Gotham foundation. They're very distinct for me in terms of how they relate to themselves and then to Belle Reeve. There's something visually cool about them. Belle Reeve doesn't play into my equation while writing it, oddly enough, so I really look at these two as a super prison along with an insane asylum and having those two opposing forces clash -- I'm not going to say it "writes itself," but the drama is already right there.

I know from speaking with Geoff Johns about his "Forever Evil" miniseries and what he's doing with Lex Luthor's group, and then speaking with Brian Buccellato about "Rogues Rebellion," that the Rogues are against what's happening in the "Forever Evil" world, and Luthor's group is not thrilled with the Crime Syndicate either. Where do the Arkham and Blackgate villains fall in regards to the Crime Syndicate and their motivations in all this chaos?

It's a clear goal, actually, for each of their distinct parties, so to speak. Gotham is the prize, and there's nothing else on their radar. They just want Gotham and each one has their own reasons for wanting it.

Bane knows that some order is necessary -- the way I'm approaching it in "Arkham" is, they actually carve out sections for their own. Mister Freeze has his own section and Man-Bat has his own section, Two-Face has his own section, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, etc. That represents the schizophrenic feel right away. Bane wants to take over as one entity, while Arkham is schizophrenic and they're already taking it over as separate entities that play into their psyche.

Scarecrow is, believe it or not, the one person who believes there should be a plan, so he's the one person who tries to bind them together, at least, to realize they should all be working together because at some point in "Arkham" #1, Scarecrows realizes that Bane is coming and he has his eye on the prize -- Gotham -- and he knows he can't fight [Bane] with a schizophrenic army. He needs to have the psychos all on the same page, if only for a little while.

The artists you're working with on these books are Scot Eaton, Szymon Kudranski and Graham Nolan --

Szymon is on "Scarecrow," Graham is on "Bane" and Scot is on "Arkham." They're great because they're all very distinct and they all lend different artistic sensibilities to each of them. Scot's stuff is just awesome, the first issue looks great. We worked together a long time ago on some of the first things I did for DC. We did some Mongul two-parter in "Showcase," probably in '95 or '96, so we worked together well back then. When I was an editor there, I hired him for a bunch of things, but I always was hoping I could get to work with him again as a writer/artist team. His stuff on "Arkham" is great, and his representation of Bane, along with Graham's, is just pure, clean storytelling. I mean, with Graham, it's classic yet really brings to life the character he created along with Chuck Dixon, and just really brings a real sense of majesty to Bane, as does Scot. And terror!

Scot's doing a lot of heavy lifting in "Arkham War," depicting so many iconic villains. Did you specifically bring Scot onboard for "Forever Evil: Arkham War" because of this?

Yeah, absolutely. He had just started to do some stuff in the Bat office, and when I knew he was getting his feet wet back at DC after being at Marvel for a while, I was speaking to Mike Marts and Katie Kubert and said, "Hey, if we can get Scot over here, that would be awesome." They were able to lock him up for it, and that was great. He has his distinct style, as does Szymon, on his Scarecrow issue, has a very nebulous feel to how Scarecrow moves in and out of Gotham as he tries to speak to the other Arkham villains scattered around the city. Scarecrow's on sort of a walkabout the way Szymon does it, it's a very high contrast book -- it could be printed in a black and white. It's in color, but it has that feel, almost like a very film noir feel. It just works great.

Are there any seminal Bane, Two-Face or Scarecrow stories that influenced you or you pulled from for the "Arkham War" miniseries and for your five-part Two-Face story in "Batman and...?"

I would say the Bane stuff. Dixon and Nolan had done some great stuff, the history is so rich. As people will see in the Bane one-shot, it's not an origin issue, but I wanted to make sure there were pieces of what Dixon and Graham had done peppered throughout, put in there for a reason. It's nice to be able to draw on that stuff because I enjoyed it so much when it first came out. That it still feels so immediate, it's really great storytelling that's stood the test of time already, at close to 20 years, believe it or not. When you get to do a book like "Arkham War," you really are playing in a huge sandbox and you get to play with so many different characters, from Bane and Scarecrow to Riddler. I've got Clayface, obviously Two-Face, Poison Ivy, so I'm getting to just play with the toys -- some of them more than others, but I'm getting to play with a lot of them. That's fun, as a writer who has been in the DCU for so long.

Since the death of Damian, you've brought in a lot of other characters into "Batman and..." In a way, it's almost been like an anthology in that we're seeing so many different sides of the Batman mythos and Gotham characters. Is that feel and rotating "Batman and Blank" something you want to continue moving into the future?

It's kind of weird. I'd say using the word anthology is the wrong term, because it's "Batman And Robin," "Batman And Blank," it's still really tied to Batman's psyche in such a real way its more a continuing of an uber-story. It's not that other things are coming in to his universe; it's Batman dealing with everything that happened with Damian and now moving on from that.

It's not going to be a revolving door kind of book. I've got some big stories lined up, three big arcs starting with issue #24, that will take us into next summer. It's really just pure, character-driven stories that have some big arc all tied into that. People will see that as we go along towards the summer, but I would say that it's the kind of book that's not a revolving door, but characters really integral to fleshing out Batman and Batman's moving ahead from Damian's death.

"Detective Comics: The Scarecrow" hits shelves September 18; "Batman: Bane" is out September 25; "Forever Evil: Arkham War" starts October 9.

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